Interview with James C. Morehead


1-When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

The first memory I have of writing creatively was in elementary school, like many kids, when I wrote and physically created a book. I still have that book – bound in fabric – it was a science fiction story. I wrote many short stories, mostly fantastical, and was a fantasy and science fiction bookworm as soon as I was able to read. Fast forward to high school, and a Creative Writing teacher in grade 10 introduced me to contemporary poets. The poetic seed was planted, and I’ve been writing poetry ever since.

2-How do you schedule your life when you’re writing?

I have an intense day job in tech, so writing poetry squeezes out other activities outside of work, but I will take a few minutes between meetings to revise and edit a poem. I have a long backlog of poetry writing and related tasks I want to get to, and with a full-time job, I have to accept that it will take longer than I would like. That’s the trade-off most poets with parallel working lives have to make, and my advice is, that’s ok. Dana Gioia is an example of a renowned poet who had an intense day job for many years but still managed to fit poetry into his life. One side effect, especially due to the podcast I host (the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast), is that my reading is limited to poetry books right now. The fiction I’m enjoying is solely via audiobooks during my commute to work. 

3-What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Writing most first drafts of my poems on my phone at night, after everyone in the house has gone to sleep when it’s quiet. I used to write everything longhand on paper, but because of writing at night in the dark, I write first drafts on my phone, in dark mode, on Google Docs. This has unexpected advantages over writing longhand. Because formatting a poem is tricky on the phone, I just focus on the words and images. Using Google Docs means I get to see how my poems evolve by looking at the revision history.

4-How did you get your book published?

For decades I shared my poetry with friends and family and on my personal website. It was during the pandemic – in 2020 – that a friend nudged me to publish. Because my poetry up to that point had already (technically) been “published” on my website, the traditional publishing route wasn’t an option. My first two books (“canvas” and “portraits of Red and Grey”) were a combination of new unpublished and (mostly) previously published poems, so I self-published using my Viewless Wings imprint. I did, however, do all the things a publisher would do to create high-quality books. I hired a copyeditor, book designer, and professional photographer. As a result, I’ve been successful in having my books available not only through online channels like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but local booksellers. I’ve also been able to have my books added to local libraries.

5-Where did you get your information or idea for your book?

The core of “Portraits of Red and Grey” is an extraordinary high school trip I took in 1983 to the U.S.S.R. I spent 18 days traversing the Soviet Union, from Moscow to Leningrad (as Saint Petersburg was known in the Soviet Union days), and many stops in between. This was a transformative trip, and years later, while attending the University of Waterloo, I created a series of twenty-four poems capturing the experience of that trip through the eyes of a teenager. The book also includes additional memoir poems that capture vignettes throughout my life. This book isn’t a narrative autobiography but rather a series of personal vignettes that have universal appeal. That’s the beauty of poetry, something very personal, captured in poetic form, and can have broad appeal and impact people in very different ways.

I’ve heard from multiple readers that reading my poetry, or hearing me recite my poetry, is like watching a movie; the imagery is so vivid. That’s something I try to achieve in my writing.

6-What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My favorite not-writing, not-working hobby is hiking in nature with my family or by myself. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area spoils me with numerous options for hiking, from the ocean coastline to the Sierra mountain ranges.

7-What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

With tech as a day job, where everything moves so fast, I was surprised at how long everything takes when you are publishing a book, even if you self-publish. And now that I’m working on two future books, possibly through a traditional publishing route, and waiting for poems to be placed in journals first, the time frame is measured in months and years.

8-Is there anything you would like to confess about as an author?

I used to write my poetry for myself, and I would share my poetry with friends and family, but I wasn’t connected to a critique group for critical feedback. In recent years I’ve connected myself to several critique groups, and I’ve learned how important critical feedback is to the writing process. I also used to wait for inspiration to write a poem, and as a result, my writing was sporadic. I’ve made writing a habit now, and as a result, I’m finding inspiration even when I think I don’t have anything to write about. Finally, I’ve learned how to perform my poetry which is a skill that takes time to develop. 

9-As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

For many years I wanted to be a veterinarian; I read all of the James Herriot books. Around the time of grade 6, I was introduced to my first computer, and I never looked back.

10-How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

Feedback is a gift – including negative feedback. At the same time, you have to be careful not to react to every piece of feedback. The appreciation of creative work is inherently subjective, varying based on the interests and experiences of the reader (or viewer or listener). There are many brilliant pieces of art that aren’t “liked” by many people. Don’t ignore feedback, but also keep that feedback in perspective.

3 Comments on “Interview with James C. Morehead

  1. Pingback: portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James Morehead (April-May 2023) |

  2. I was struck by James’ observation about how LONG everything takes in the publishing journey. By the time I publish something I’ve written, chances are when I read it as published work, some of the phrases feel like someone else wrote them…it’s like I forget some of the things I said, especially when someone quotes it back to me and I’m struck that of all the things I wrote, THAT’S what stuck.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: